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Section 1. GUIDELINES FOR READING ACADEMIC TEXTS

UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT ORGANIZATION SUBHEADINGS, KEY WORDS, REFERENTS, LINKING WORDS

Instruction: Surveying the text tells you about the topic or subject of the text. It may also tell you something about how the text is organized (subheadings are especially useful). Surveying may also tell you something about the writer’s purpose—whether the intention is to give instructions, to compare, to give information, and so on.

You do not have time to read every word carefully. Remember that your task is not to understand all of the text. It is often only necessary to read a small part of the text carefully to answer the questions.

The best way to find details quickly is to use scanning. Scanning is searching for key words or synonyms by looking quickly through the text. Your eyes move across and down through the text without reading in the normal way. For example, you scan when you look for a word in a dictionary. You do not read every word as you search for the word(s) you want.

It is easiest to scan for numbers or words which start with capital letters (such as most names) because these stand out in a text.

In most well-written English texts, every paragraph deals with a specific aspect of a topic. The first sentence of a paragraph usually tells the reader what the rest of the paragraph is about so when you are trying to identify the main idea of a paragraph, you should read the first sentence carefully. Then, keeping the idea of the first sentence in mind, you should quickly check the rest of the paragraph, picking up only some of the words. This kind of reading is called skim reading or skimming. Using this technique you will have a general idea of what the writer is saying about the topic.

Of course, when you skim read a text you cannot get as much information from the text as when you read it all carefully, but by skimming you can quickly get enough information to help you answer the question. Remember that efficient use of time is one of the most important exam skills.

You will have to adjust the speed of your skimming according to how easy the text is for you to understand. If a paragraph does not have a first sentence which gives the topic of the paragraph clearly, you have to skim more carefully. But don’t forget that you should not read every word—reading every word will waste too much time.

Don’t expect to be able to skim well immediately—you will have to practice. But most experts agree that it is a very important skill, not only for exams but also for all your future reading for study or work purposes

Text: Global Change

Scientists around the world believe that human activities are threatening the biosphere — the thin skin of Earth where life occurs. The biosphere extends from a few inches below the surface of the deepest ocean trenches, where microbes exist, to Earth’s upper atmosphere, where pollen spores are carried by the wind. It includes the human habitat, the only one we know or will know in any time of interest to us, our children, or our children’s children.

The biosphere offer

s an incredible richness and variety of plants and animals and, in the process of maintaining itself, has maintained a habitat suitable for people. The biosphere does not need humanity’s presence to continue, but people need nature and the organisms within it to sustain an environment suitable for human life. Despite this fact, humanity in the first decades of the 2000’s is destroying the natural systems upon which it depends.

Many factors contribute to this destruction. They include the growth of the human population and the progressive poisoning of nature with the chemical by-products of modern agriculture, industry, power generation, and transportation. Scientists warn of a potentially catastrophic warming of Earth’s climate, the depletion of Earth’s protective layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere, and the loss of plants and animals.

For human beings, these problems may create an increase in human diseases from cancer to cataracts. But they may also lead to dwindling supplies of safe air, water, and food, putting greater and greater strains on governments to protect people’s basic needs.

The situation raises issues that are large and complex but far from insolvable. The solutions will rely on scientific and technical research, on developing clear definitions of the problems, and on creating equally clear political and economic solutions.

In June 1992, the leaders of 178 nations convened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to try to set the world on a new course. The meeting, called the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development or simply the Earth Summit, was designed to forge agreement between nations on how to combat such environmental problems as global climatic change, the destruction of forests, and the loss of plant and animal species. Although most scientists were disappointed that the summit delegates did not agree to more forceful solutions, the process itself was an important recognition of the problem of global environmental change

At the beginning of 2001, Earth supported about 6.4 billion people, a dramatic rise since 1900, when Earth contained about 1.6 billion people. The United Nations estimates that by the year 2020, the world population will be around 7.4 billion people.

Each day, the world’s human population increases by about 250,000 people, or more than 90 million each year. This annual increase is approximately equal to the population of Mexico. The rate at which the human population is growing can be illustrated by how little even catastrophic natural disasters slow it down. For example, the June 1990 earthquake in Iran killed an estimated 40,000 people. Within six hours, new births worldwide replaced the number of people lost from this immense tragedy.

Population growth is not due simply to an increase in births but to the excess of births over deaths. Improvements in public health and medicine around the world propel population growth by enabling people to live longer. The growth feeds itself as greater numbers of young women survive to childbearing age and start to have children.

These advances are causing the world’s population to double at a much faster rate than ever before. In the year 1000, the human population grew at a rate so slow that — had it continued — the world population would not have doubled for 575 years. By 1825, the doubling time had decreased to about 100 years. Today, the world’s population is doubling in 35 to 40 years.

For Earth as a whole, the rate of population growth in 2001 was 1.7 per cent. This means that the population at the end of the year was 1.7 per cent larger than at the beginning.

But the growth rate varied greatly from country to country. In the richer, industrialized nations — such as the United States, Canada, Japan, and the countries of Western Europe — population growth averaged 0.5 per cent. Germany and Hungary had rates that were slightly less than zero, meaning that their populations were declining. In the developing nations, however, population growth was higher, averaging 2.1 per cent. The highest growth rates occurred in Africa and in Arab states on the Persian Gulf. The populations of Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Uganda grew by 3.7 to 3.8 per cent, as did those of Ivory Coast, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.

Although such percentages may seem insignificant, the difference between a worldwide 1 per cent rate of growth and a 3 per cent rate is the difference between adding 54 million people and adding 200 million people to Earth each year. A sustained worldwide growth rate of 3.7 per cent, for example, would cause Earth’s population double in only 20 years.

Many economists and social planners believe that economic development is the key to slowing population growth. The sharp difference between the rates of population growth in richer, economically developed nations and the rates in developing nations seems to support this view.

In developing nations, where many people farm for a living, there is an economic advantage to having several children who can help with the work and provide for the parents in old age. When societies become economically and technologically advanced, however, modern agricultural techniques enable the production of the same amount of food using the labor of fewer people. In such societies, large families are unnecessary and may be costly. As a result, family size drops. This so-called demographic transition has helped reduce the growth of populations in the wealthier, industrialized nations.

Unfortunately, a rapidly expanding population can by itself prevent a developing nation from improving its economy. A nation’s people can become poorer when its population growth outstrips its economic growth. Kenya, for instance, with a 1992 population of 24 million, will have 48 million people in 2012 if the current population growth rate continues. Few experts believe that Kenya’s economic circumstances can improve sufficiently during that time to provide adequately for so many people. The nation may be doomed to worsening poverty unless it can limit its population growth.

The human population is expanding in many regions simply because people lack awareness of birth control or the ability to limit the size of their families. Recent United Nations statistics indicate that 90 per cent of women in 10 African nations have not heard of contraception.

In other cases, people in developing countries who want to limit the growth of their families lack access to contraception. Family planning methods are simply not available in large sections of the world. According to a study by the International Statistical Institute in The Hague, the Netherlands, as many as 500 million women in developing countries live too far from health centers to obtain contraceptives.

But attempts to slow population growth confront more than economic or educational problems. Human reproduction is a matter of great t religious and cultural importance as well. The religious teachings of many people prohibit or discourage contraception. And some cultures traditionally value large families as a sign of prestige and power.

One of the problems of having an increasing world population is the difficulty of feeding everyone. As many as 13 million people die every year from malnutrition and starvation, despite the fact that global food production continues to increase and total world food supplies are adequate.

Experts say that complex political and economic factors lead to poverty and hunger in various regions. But some scientists fear that current demands for agricultural resources already exceed Earth’s capacity to supply the population on a continuing basis. From 1950 until 1984, world agricultural production nearly tripled. In the mid 1980’s, however, world agricultural production began to level off, and, in certain places, production declined.

Loss of farmland is a major cause of the decline in agricultural production. Usable farmland is lost for many reasons, but the major causes are erosion and salinization. Erosion occurs when wind and water rob land of its nutrient-rich soil. Salinization is the accumulation of salts on the soil, a problem common in regions where irrigation is used. Finally, as cities grow, they take over land once available for agriculture. The result of all these factors is that less and less land must feed more people.

Dwindling farmland is not the only problem, however. Across the entire globe, overpopulation continues to deplete croplands, fisheries, water resources, and energy supplies. Some scientists fear that uncontrolled population growth will thus produce dangerous conflicts among nations and regions over access to Earth’s natural resources.

Matching headings with paragraphs or sections

Matching headings with paragraphs actually means identifying where to find information. Each paragraph in the text needs a heading.

It is useful, while surveying, the text to get an idea of the organization of the text, namely, what topics are discussed and in what order.

(Note that you are trying to identify topics only.) This will help you know where (in which paragraph or section) to scan later for the answer to a question. If the text has a lot of subheadings, it is much easier to identify text organization.

Task: Match the following 7 headings with letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

Your task is to choose the correct one from the list of headings provided in the box below. In a task type like this, you should skim a paragraph or section before choosing the correct answer from the list. This is because when trying to match long pieces of text (e.g. paragraphs) to phrases (e.g. headings), it is more efficient to skim the long piece of text first. Then you can look through the alternative headings very quickly.

Step 1—Survey the text

Surveying has already been discussed several times in this book. Can you remember what to look at when you survey? A list of headings can give you some useful information to help you quickly understand what each part of the text will be about.

Step 2—Skim read each paragraph

Every paragraph deals with a specific aspect of a topic. The first sentence of a paragraph will most probably tell the you what the rest of the paragraph is about so when you are trying to identify the main idea of a paragraph, you should read the first sentence carefully. Using this technique you will have a general idea of what the writer is saying in each paragraph.

Step 3—Determine which heading is the best match for each of the paragraphs marked by the letters.

Other causes of overpopulation A

Billions of mouths to feed B

Poverty and population growth C

Destruction of human habitat D

The rate of population growth E

Human Population Growth F

Recognition of the problem G

Scanning paragraphs for key words

The best way to find key words is to use scanning by looking quickly through the text. Your eyes move across and down through the text without reading it in your normal way.

Also, another source which tells you how to find key words is the subject or the source of the text. Look at the text Global Change. This title can help you understand that key words must concern any kinds of changes or be connected with changes.

E.g.: in paragraph A it is possible to point out the following key words: human activities, biosphere, destruction, growth of population, poisoning of nature, warming of climate, depletion of ozone layer, loss of plants and animals.

Task: Find 5-10 key words in each paragraph

Follow the three-step strategy to make finding the answer easier.

Step 1—Survey the text:

Look at any parts of the text that stand out: the title, section headings or subheadings,

  • · any words in special print (bold, italics, CAPITALS or underlined),
  • · any diagrams, tables or pictures in the text,

any unusual features in the text (e.g. layout or boxes).

Step 2— Make sure you know what you are looking for: scan for key words or synonyms by looking over the text, do not read every word.

Step 3—Select 5-10 key words for the whole text:

Out of the body of the key words selected for each of the paragraphs, single out 10 key words for the whole text.

Reference questions

Reference questions ask what noun (called the referent) a pronoun or some expression refers to. The correct answer is NOT always the noun that is closest to the pronoun in the passage.

The correct choices are usually other nouns that appear in the passage. If you are unable to decide immediately which referent is correct, substitute the possible choices for the word that is being asked about.

Which is the most logical substitute? In general, reference questions tend to be the easiest type of reading question.

E.g.: The noun biosphere is the referent for the pronoun it in the following sentences: The biosphere extends from a few inches below the surface of the deepest ocean trenches, where microbes exist, to Earth’s upper atmosphere, where pollen spores are carried by the wind. It includes the human habitat, the only one we know or will know in any time of interest to us, our children, or our children’s children.

Task: What are the referents for the following italicized words and phrases?

Before identifying the referents for pronouns and other expressions in sentences and very short passages, read the items. Decide which choice is the correct referent for the underlined expression, and mark the answer.

B. For human beings, these problems may create an increase in human diseases from cancer to cataracts. But they may also lead to dwindling supplies of safe air, water, and food, putting greater and greater strains on governments to protect people’s basic needs.

These advances are causing the world’s population to double at a much faster rate than ever before.

This so-called demographic transition has helped reduce the growth of populations in the wealthier, industrialized nations.

a problem common in regions where irrigation is used.

Linking Words

Knowing the meaning and the purpose of linking words in sentences can be very useful for academic reading. For example, in the following passage there are two linking words:

The biosphere does not need humanity’s presence to continue, but people need nature and the organisms within it to sustain an environment suitable for human life. Despite this fact, humanity in the final decades of the 1900’s is destroying the natural systems upon which it depends.

Both but and despite show contrast — but between clauses and despite between sentences.

The more common linking words can be divided into six main groups according to their purpose.

Showing sequence, e.g., finally, firstly, secondly, then, next, after this.

Finally, as cities grow, they take over land once available for agriculture.

Giving additional information, e.g., as well, even, in addition, also, besides this, as well as, and.

They include the growth of the human population and the progressive poisoning of nature…

Giving examples, e.g., for example, such as, for instance, be illustrated by.

The rate at which the human population is growing can be illustrated by how little even catastrophic natural disasters slow it down.

Expressing consequence or result, e.g., so that, so, therefore, as a result, consequently.

As a result, family size drops.

Giving reasons or causes, e.g., the cause, be the result of, because of this, due to this, be caused by this, because, result from.

Loss of farmland is a major cause of the decline in agricultural production.

Showing contrast, e.g., but, however, though, although, while, despite, even though, whereas, on the other hand.

…but people need nature and the organisms within it to sustain an environment suitable for human life. Despite this fact, humanity in the final decades of the 1900’s is destroying the natural systems…

Note: Even though the above linking words may be in one group, they are often used in different ways in sentences. Check your dictionary or grammar book for examples of how to use these words in grammatically correct ways.

Task: Write out sentences with linking words and phrases and explain their function.

Sample sentence: In the developing nations, however, population growth was higher, averaging 2.1 per cent.

The word ‘however’ shows that the information in the second sentence contrasts with the information in the first sentence. The main contrast is between industrialized nations and developing nations. Therefore, you can guess that the meaning of «population growth was higher» is similar to the meaning of excessive quantities.

Section 2. GUIDELINES FOR GRAMMAR TEST

Problems with Verbals

Any of these verbals — participle, gerund, infinitive, or simple form—may be incorrectly used when another one of them is required, depending on the meaning. Take, for example, two sentences:

I stopped to talk with my friend. The infinitive expresses purpose — I

stopped because I wanted to talk with my friend.

I stopped talking with my friend. The gerund is an object — I stopped this action because I was pressed for time and had to go.

Incorrect choice of gerunds

The writer Edgar Allen Poe is usually credited with invent the short story.

After a preposition {with), a simple form cannot be used. The correct form is a gerund {inventing).

A single-lens reflex camera allows a photographer seeing exactly what the camera will see.

After the verb allow, a gerund {seeing) cannot be used. An infinitive (to see) is correct.

Incorrect choice of participles

You may see past participles used incorrectly for present participles or present participles used incorrectly for past participles.

You may also see a main verb used when a participle is required.

There are probably around 3,000 languages speaking in the world.

Past participle (spoken) is required because the idea is passive. The sentence means, «...3,000 languages which are spoken. ...»

For decades, journalist Theodore H. White wrote books described American presidential elections.

Past participle described is used incorrectly because the idea is active: the books described the fions. Therefore a present participle, describing should be used. (The sentence could also be acted by adding a relative pronoun: that described.)

Nutmeg, widely is used as a spice, is actually the kernel of a tropical spice. Instead of the main verb is used, a past participle (used) is required.

Incorrect forms of infinitives

Incorrect infinitive forms such as for go or to going may be used in place of the correct form, to go.

People need nature and the organisms within it as for sustain an environment suitable for human life.

The correcf form of the infinitive is to sustain.

Viral infections are generally more difficult to treating than bacterial infections.

The correcf form of the infinitive is to treat.

Incorrect verb forms

Some of the verb errors are errors in form. Most verb form problems involve main verb forms: An -ing form may be used in place of a past participle, a past participle in place of a past tense form, a simple form in place of an -ing form, an infinitive in place of a simple form, and so on. Some involve irregular verbs that have different forms for the past tense and the past participle—took and taken—for example. The following information may help you choose the correct form of the main verb.

The simple form follows all modal verbs.

might be can remember

should study must know

could go may follow

(Certain similar modal verbs and word combinations require infinitives.) ought to attend used to play

have to hurry

The past participle is used after a form of have in all perfect forms of the verb, has done had called

should have said have run

will have read could have made

The -ing form is used after a form of be in all progressive forms of the verb. is sleeping has been writing should have been wearing was working had been painting will be waiting

The past participle is used after a form of be in all passive forms of the verb. is worn has been shown would have been lost

is being considered had been promised might have been canceled were told will have been missed

Verb form problems may also involve auxiliary verbs: has may be used in place of did, is in place of does, and so on.

Exercise:: Problems involving subject-verb agreement.

Directions: Underline the form that correctly completes each sentence. Then circle the subject with which the underlined verb agrees. The first one is done as an example.

The first bridge to be built with electric lights (was/were) the Brooklyn Bridge. .

Ethics (is/are) the study of moral duties, principles, and values There (is/are) two types of calculus, differential and integral.

George Gershwin, together with his brother Ira, (was/were) the creator of the first musical comedy to win a Pulitzer Prize.

In a chess game, the player with the white pieces always (moves/move) first.

The Earth and Pluto (is/are) the only two planets believed to have a single moon.

A number of special conditions (is/are) necessary for the formation of a geyser. Each of the Ice Ages (was/were) more than a million years long.

The battery, along with the alternator and starter, (makes/make) up the electrical system of a car.

Teeth (is/are) covered with a hard substance called enamel.

The more-or-less rhythmic succession of economic booms and busts (is/are) referred to as the business cycle.

The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom (varies/vary) from element to element.

All trees, except for the tree fern, (is/are) seed-bearing plants.

Fifteen hundred dollars a year (was/were) the per capita income in the United States in 1950.

Everyone who (goes/go) into the woods should recognize common poisonous plants such as poison ivy and poison oak.

Different forms of the same verb.

From the context of the sentence stem, you’ll have to decide which form works best in the sentence. Used alone, an infinitive, gerund, or participle cannot be a main verb.

The verb is active, but it should be passive, or it is passive but it should be active.

If the subject of the sentence performs the action, the verb must be in the active voice. If the subject of the sentence receives the action, the verb must be in the passive.

The architect designed the building, (active verb)

The building was designed by the architect, (passive verb)

The verb does not agree with its subject. Singular subjects require singular verbs; plural subjects require plural verbs.

The verb is not in the right tense. According to the time words or ideas in the sentence, the appropriate tense must be used.

An unnecessary element comes before the verb. Personal pronouns {he, she, it), relative pronouns {who, which, that, and so on), or conjunctions (and, but, and so on) may be used unnecessarily before verbs in some sentences.

Example

Before the late eighteenth century, most textiles at home.

produced

was produced

producing

were produced

Choice (D) is the best answer. (A) can be considered either an active verb in the past tense or a past participle; both are incorrect. An active verb is incorrect because a passive verb is needed; a past participle is incorrect because a past participle cannot serve as a main verb. (B) is incorrect because the plural subject textiles requires a plural verb, were. (C) is incorrect because, by itself, an -ing form can never be a main verb.

Mini-test

Identify and correct errors involving verbs and verbals

Human activities the biosphere.

threatened

will threaten

are threatening

threaten

The wind (are carried/ carry/ carries/is carried) pollen spores in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

In the process (A/B/C/D) itself, the biosphere (maintain/has maintained/ maintained/are maintaining) a habitat suitable for people.

to maintain

of maintaining

maintaining

is maintaining

These problems may (to create/create/creating/ will create) an increase in human diseases.

They may also lead to (dwindle/dwindling/dwindled) supplies of food, (put/putting/to put) greater strains on governments.

Humanity (destroy/ destroyed/is destroying) the natural systems upon which it (depending/depend/depends).

.Improvements in medicine (propels/propel/has propelled) population growth by enabling people to live longer.

The meeting was designed (as to forge/for to forge/to forge) agreement between nations on how environmental problems.

will combat

combat

about combating

to combat

Economic development is the key to (slow/slowing/how to slow) population growth.

The demographic transition has helped (reducing/reduce/to reduce) the growth of population.

This nation may (doom/be doomed/be dooming) to (worsened/worsening) poverty.

One of the problems (to have/having/of having) an increasing world population is the difficulty (to feed/feeding/of feeding) everyone.

Global food production continues and total world food supplies (is/are/was/were) adequate.

to increase

increasing

to be increased

increase

Unfortunately, a rapidly expanding population can by itself (preventing/ prevent/to prevent) a developing nation from (improve/to improve/improving/ improving of) its economy.

Loss of farmlands (are, were, is, was) a major cause of the decline in agricultural production.

3 percent (are, were, is, was) insignificant for population growth difference between advanced and poor nations.

Usable farmland (lost/is lost/will lost) for many reasons, but erosion and salinization (are, were, is, was) the major cause.

Earth’s agricultural resources no longer satisfy the demands the population on a continuing basis.

supplying

by supplying

to supply

as for supply to

Modern agricultural techniques (do/make) it possible (producing/to produce/produce) the same amount of food (to use/ using/by using) the labor of fewer people.

The fact that that the delegates did not agree to forceful solutions (disappoint/disappoints/is disappoint) most scientists.


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